I pulled the trigger on Old Yeller at 6:55am this morning.
After months of deliberation and angst, I deactivated my facebook account. Without question, there has been no other small decision in the history of decision making to carry such an absurd amount of weight. It was if a simple move to streamline communication in my life carried life and death stakes, at least according to the media circus within my own mind. On the other hand, when small moves take such tremendous effort, it indicates big strongholds–strongholds on the interior that are way bigger than the exterior decision.
So here’s the snapshot of the story: Back in mid-December (when one of my spiritual grandmothers Jacqui Smith was preaching at Renovatus), I really felt like the Holy Spirit spoke to me in that delicate, aching but devastating way: “I need you to listen to me more than you listen to them.” That might seem vague, but I can tell you there was no ambiguity in my head or heart when I heard it. It’s interesting how God can drop one word of revelation into you, and it’s as if there’s a thousand page manuscript with footnotes of instruction that is embedded into the message. Like that one grain of revelation is coded with countless particularities upon arrival, all downloaded in an instant. In this particular case, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that one of the implications was that I had to get off Facebook.
Now it is of course true that I am a student of media and culture, and have from time to time offered critique about social media from some sources that have stimulated me: i.e., Sherry Turkle of MIT’s groundbreaking book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and More From Each Other. I’ve been direct about ways that I feel like we lean on digital forms of communication as an unhealthy substitute for the kind of authentic community God has hard-wired us for. John spoke of the Word of Life that he had “touched and handled.” In fact there are still manifestations of the life of God that can only be touched and handled, not clicked on or attached to a document or contained in 140 characters–especially in the manifestation of God demonstrated in the gift of each other. But I’ve never been a Luddite about such things. For me, it’s always been about defining parameters and boundaries, not that I think these mediums are bad and need to be utterly abandoned.
But I have peculiar complications. Instant feedback is my heroin, my porn, my mistress, my substitute for love and for God. It turns out He has strong opinions about such things. I’m actually quite inclined to think social media provides tremendous opportunity for community, creativity and spirituality. It just turns out that as it is in so many other mediums, God’s tools get employed for the devil’s agenda. Given my bent, constant access means ambiguity instead of focus, paralysis instead of action, the voice of legion rather than the voice of the Spirit. So I’ve been cutting out things and in doing so, it would seem, cutting off limbs. It’s been surprisingly good.
I’m more attentive than ever to my day job of building up people, tearing down ideas and blowing things up. I think I just quit another part-time job today. And I have a feeling that my relationships are going to be a whole let better for it. I’ve been clearing up more time for trysts with God, more time for trysts with Amanda, more time to flirt with my muses. There will still be plenty of time for pushing keys, but I’m more interested in pushing buttons.
The things that I think are a bit less than ideal about Twitter, on the other hand, are why I can and should keep it in play. I concur with the explanation of Twitter from Jon Stewart and company’s Earth the Book, “a service to put narcissists in contact with voyeurs, so they could leave everyone else alone.” It is true that Facebook, used well, can keep people more in community because of its kind of access. (Though of course what we do on any of these platforms are as likely as not to be performance, if we aren’t careful) But for demented me, the attempt to have a little bit of digital community with everybody keeps me from having real community with anybody. Starting with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
These decisions are not just about my own sanity, though that would be fine. For me to do what I do in a way that transforms the world, I have to have more time in the lab making things explode…more time at the table with people that make me spit my drink all over them…more time handling particular bodies so that I might be of better use to everybody. It seems in this fractured world, there is just too much love and mischief to make, and that requires me to limit my inputs. Without boundaries, it seems I’m of no use to anyone in particular.
Does it sound like I got off Facebook in order to save myself? God forbid. It’s much more noble than that. I got off Facebook in order to save you.